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France denies financial support to Al-Nur

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February 19, 2009 (PARIS) — Responding to statements made Tuesday by Sudan’s representative to the UN, who criticized France for safeguarding Darfur rebel leader Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur, the spokesperson of the French Foreign Ministry voiced support for the Doha peace process and denied providing financial support to the rebel holdout.

Al-Nur, the chairman of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), has resided in France since 2007. He refuses to participate in the latest round of peace talks in Doha requesting that Khartoum should disarm militias, implement ceasefire before to take part in any peace process.

"We are continuing our efforts to ensure that all the major stakeholders, including the movement led by Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur, are involved in the search for peace," said Eric Chevallier, the French spokesperson.

"As regards the statements of the Ambassador of Sudan to the UN … we wish to clarify that Abdel Wahid Al Nur does not receive any financial support from France for his stay in our country," he said.

Sudan’s Ambassador to the UN, Abdel-Mahmood Abdel-Haleem, had criticized France for sheltering Al-Nur amid ongoing talks with the JEM rebel movement in Doha, Qatar. Al-Nur refuses to participate in the talks until Sudan observes a ceasefire signed in April 2004, takes steps to disarm militias and allows IDPs to return safely to their homeland.

"We note that the French government is still holding a rebel leader from joining the peace process…. He is well protected by the French. We hold them also responsible for any sabotage to the peace process in the Sudan," said Abdel-Haleem.

According to Abdel-Haleem, French president Nicolas Sarkozy promised Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir on two occasions to expel the SLA leader if he continues to refuse to go to the negotiation table.

"France is actively committed to peace in Darfur to put an end to violence against victims who are mainly civilians. We support the efforts of the Qatari government and the joint UN-AU mediator for Darfur, Djibril Bassolé," explained Chevallier.

Al-Nur commands forces in the Jebel Marrah of central Darfur and has significant support among Darfur civilians and displaced persons.

(ST)

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